We need to design streets around people, not cars

Maggie Westhead and Clare Rogers from campaign group Better Streets for Enfield make a passionate plea for more road safety measures in the borough

An eight-year-old boy was killed on a road in Winchmore Hill in April. For us two local mums, this devastating news was not surprising. Our roads seem designed to put convenience for driving before human lives. That must change.

Enfield’s road casualty stats are shocking – 31 people were killed from 2017 to 2022, and 658 seriously injured, including 49 children. The most likely to be killed or seriously injured were pedestrians.

So what can be done to make our streets safer? A lot. London borough councils that are serious about ‘healthy streets’ are acting on speed limits, parking and junctions, among other measures.

In Winchmore Hill and Palmers Green, we need a 20mph limit on Green Lanes, where so many people shop and travel to school. Winchmore School students are at risk: teenagers are the group most likely to be killed on the road. The benefits of a 20mph limit are well known – 40% of people hit by a vehicle at 30mph die, compared to 10% at 20mph. Enfield needs to join the growing list of boroughs with a default 20mph limit.

Junctions are where most collisions happen. Side roads, like the Compton Road junction with Green Lanes, are especially dangerous as thousands of drivers turn across the path of pedestrians on the high street. The solution? Stop minor roads being used as shortcuts for cars. Look at Fox Lane’s junction with Green Lanes in Palmers Green – now that 6,000 drivers are not using Fox Lane as a shortcut, crossing that once terrifying junction is a breeze. Devonshire Road was once a rat-run too, but now its closure at Green Lanes has made space for café seating and a kids’ play area. This is why much-maligned low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) are so necessary – cutting the risk of collisions in half is one of their benefits.

Junctions at major roads are a different animal. We are appalled that there is still no signalised pedestrian crossing on any arm of the Hedge Lane/Green Lanes junction in Palmers Green, despite being the route to school for so many. Why? If crossings slow bus journeys by two minutes, does that matter compared to a child’s life?

Parked cars line much of Green Lanes and its side streets, making it harder for drivers to spot pedestrians about to cross, especially if they are a small child. In New York, replacing car parking with cycle lanes reduced pedestrian casualties dramatically. But when Enfield’s cycle lanes were built there was such an outcry from traders, the council kept as many parking spaces as possible, carving seven out of the newly enlarged public space in Compton Road.

Parking should be cut back in Winchmore Hill, except disabled and loading bays. As well as being safer it would give more space for seating, planting, and spending time and money – benefiting traders. For many it would also be the nudge needed to arrive by foot, bike or public transport instead of by car.

Finally, we need controlled parking across the borough. Is it right that I can park a car for free the day I buy it, but have to wait for years – and then pay – for a secure on-street space for a bicycle? Charging for parking would help reduce multiple car ownership and the council could charge more for SUVs, which are more likely to kill children.

All these measures and more are laid out in the annual ‘Healthy Streets Scorecard’ which ranks London boroughs on how healthy their streets are, according to ten indicators. Enfield is ahead of many outer London boroughs, with its miles of cycle lanes, two ‘quieter neighbourhoods’ (LTNs) and school streets, but still sits in tenth place overall for outer London – with progress being slowed.

We urge Enfield Council to make healthy streets in Enfield a priority, so we never have to face an avoidable tragedy again.

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